How to Mitigate FMLA/ADA Interactions

For many busy healthcare executives, employment practices matters are often secondary to more immediate problems. But while employee/employer challenges might not seem pressing in the moment, if they aren’t addressed, they can become critical and costly in the future. Executives must anticipate and mitigate these risks before they damage an ASC’s reputation, finances, or work environment.

One of the top employment risk management issues is the intersection of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which oftentimes comes on the heels of a workplace injury and workers’ compensation insurance claim. The following action steps are designed to help ASCs make plans to protect their employees and their organization.

Understand the rules.

FMLA and ADA, along with worker compensation laws, exist to establish protocols for employees and organizations to follow in specific scenarios. The regulations are intended to safeguard all parties involved. Healthcare executives should have a comprehensive understanding of the laws and their parameters. Under which circumstances does FMLA or ADA – or both – apply?

Outline clear job descriptions.

Every position within an ASC must have a detailed job description that outlines its essential tasks and responsibilities. This is a vital element of managing the interaction between FMLA and ADA; it prevents misunderstanding and clarifies expectations.

Negotiate accommodations.

With a concrete description in place, it is easier to separate mandatory job functions from tasks that may allow for flexibility. This clarity facilitates an FMLA/ADA discussion and minimizes cause for dispute. For example, an office manager with a back injury may be able to negotiate reasonable accommodations for the job, such as delegating filing and moving boxes to another employee. But for a nursing position, accommodation may not be possible if this condition makes essential functions of the job – like lifting a patient – impossible.

Determine next steps.

Conversations about FMLA/ADA issues should happen early and often. It’s especially important for ASC executives to manage situations carefully when an employee is nearing the end of the 12-week, FMLA-allowed leave. This intersection point between FMLA and ADA is where ASCs often make mistakes, putting them at risk for claims. Every situation is different, so assumptions are dangerous.

Executives must work with employees to determine medical limitations, essential job functions, and options for returning to work. Sometimes it’s possible to temporarily restructure a position, or offer a short-term, modified description of job duties. In other scenarios, there isn’t as much room for adaptability. HR professionals are valuable resources in this phase, bringing their expertise to the process.

Learn how MedHQ helps ASCs mitigate HR risks.